"Latin America doesn't need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people", he said in Texas. While State Department officials said his discussions with leaders will focus on trade, security and democracy building, America's immigration debate plus controversial comments by U.S. President Donald Trump will likely also come up.
The statement also rejected claims that China is undermining USA interest in the region.
The spokesperson confirmed "China is a major worldwide buyer of Latin American bulk commodities, and imports more and more agricultural and high value-added products from the region".
"Let's make sure we have systems in place where we understand who's coming into the country", Tillerson said.
According to analysts, China's attractiveness to the region as a loan provider is that it does not demand any economic or social policy changes, nor does it impose structural adjustment programs as was the norm with loans granted by the International Monetary Fund, which many claimed undermined the country's sovereignty.
"The corrupt and hostile regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela clings to a false dream and antiquated vision for the region that has already failed its citizens", Tillerson said Thursday at the University of Texas at Austin during a stop en route to Mexico.
"This is a way for Tillerson to say, 'We're elevating our voice, ' " said Rafael Fernández de Castro, the director of the Center for U.S.
But, as he sat down on Friday for two- and three-way talks with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts, Luis Videgaray and Chrystia Freeland, the trade deal was in the foreground.
"Obviously that would be something that we strongly want to avoid", Videgaray said at an event in NY late a year ago, referring to NAFTA collapsing.
Videgaray has said closer cooperation with the United States is the best way to achieve Mexico's foreign policy aims.
Rex Tillerson will kick off a week-long trip to Latin America by meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City today; he will then visit Argentina, Peru and Colombia, before heading home via Jamaica. They're about issues like how many components in a auto have to be American.
But in Latin America, the doctrine has always been viewed as a pretext for American armed intervention in the region.
After visiting Buenos Aires and the Argentine mountain resort town of Bariloche, Tillerson is scheduled to meet in Lima with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on various issues, including the eighth annual Summit of the Americas, which is to be held April 13-14 in Lima, Peru.